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Seattle Mayor Murray urges state to come up with extra money for Bertha project

A day after it was announced that Bertha will need $60 million more to keep going, and additional funds in the future, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray weighed in on the news, encouraging the state to come up with the money.

In a statement, Murray said:

The tunnel is a project of statewide significance funded by state gas-tax dollars on a state highway. As an Attorney General opinion found on this very project, cities do not assume financial liability for the state highways that run through their jurisdictions. I look to the State of Washington to uphold the commitment it made to this City to build a tunnel and replace the Alaska Way surface street.

WSDOT asks for more money

The project that will replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct not only needs an additional $60 million, crews need more time to finish it.

“We’re making good progress, we’ve had a delay that’s affected our schedule, that’s affected our budget,” acting Secretary of WSDOT Roger Millar told the state legislature’s joint transportation committee. “We think we have ways to address the budget over time but we need the cash flow to move forward.”

“What we are looking at is a project that will be open to traffic in 2019,” he said. “Funding sources, because of litigation, won’t be resolved until after that. What we do know for a certainty, is to keep the project moving to completion … in the 2017-19 biennium we anticipate the need for an additional – up to — $60 million.”

Related: Company that built Bertha blames infamous pipe for early problems

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, costs have piled up since Bertha stopped for repairs to its cutterhead — a stop that lasted nearly two years. For example, costs to acquire rights of way in Bertha’s path have been higher than expected, partially because WSDOT had to extend agreements during the delay. Then there are the costs of demolishing the viaduct, which WSDOT says has also risen because of the delay.

That adds up to about $60 million, or a 1.8 percent budget increase to the 2017-19 biennium. The state legislature has approved $3.1 billion for the project so far.

But that’s not all. WSDOT also reports that a total provisional budget of $223 million is needed to get the whole job done. That’s a 6.6 percent increase. WSDOT’s first priority is obtaining the $60 million to cover more immediate costs.

“We remain committed to completing this important safety project while also protecting taxpayers,” Millar said. “We will continue to follow the terms of the design-build contract to recover the added costs that are due to the delay of the project.”

That means WSDOT hasn’t forgotten about insurance claims it has filed, as well as the ongoing litigation over construction snafus.

Bertha is moving again

Meanwhile, Bertha has begun moving again underneath Seattle. The boring machine spent about a month sitting idle for maintenance work approximately 120 feet below the surface of downtown.

About one-third of the tunnel has been bored — that translates to around 3,100 feet. Since the machine began digging in December 2015, it has tunneled 2,100 feet. It is currently in zone 4 — out of 10 zones — placing it underneath Spring Street.

WSDOT expects that Bertha will take two more maintenance stops before the entire tunnel is complete.

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